If you don't decide where it is you want to go, how do you know when you get there? The human mind works like a guided missile, provided you give it a target. If you don't set yourself a clear target, then the mind wanders around aimlessly, and nothing much gets done. No wonder so many sailors never improve through a whole lifetime of sailing. It doesn't need to be that way...

There are many ways of getting sophisticated about goal setting, and we'll go into these in other Sailjuice articles, but this is just a quick way to get started.

14 rounding a mark at the 2008 Worlds

Stage 1: Set yourself a realistic goal that fulfils the S.M.A.R.T. criteria. Let's say you normally finish 15th in the Laser in your Sunday club racing. The goal could be to finish in 10th place or better six weeks from now.

Stage 2: Identify the key differences in ability between you and the sailors who currently finish around 10th place. Alternatively, look back at your last race and decide which two or three areas of your sailing could yield the most improvement in the shortest time.

For example, if you capsized twice on the run, then those were probably among the most 'expensive' moments of the race for you. Give yourself a mark out of 10, say 3/10 for your heavy-wind running skills.

Stage 3: Identify three ways in which you can reduce your risk of capsizing. For example, these could be:

  • Ask three of the best sailors at your club how they sail down a windy run, how much vang they use, how they steer etc
  • Get one of these sailors to watch you sailing on a run, and get some coaching from them.
  • Miss a race to actually go and practice your running skills outside of the pressure of a racing environment.

Stage 4: Once you've had time to implement these changes, give yourself a new mark out of 10. Hopefully your score has improved from 3/10. Have your improved sufficiently to be able to have a serious shot at your main goal, ie to finish in the top 10 of the club race? If so, great, if not, reassess and come up with some new tasks for you to practise and work on.

Stage 5: Six weeks later, you race. Where did you finish? If you finished 10th or better, congratulations! If not, what skills were still lacking in your quest for a top 10 finish?

Keep identifying your major weaknesses, give yourself a score out of 10, and have the courage and determination to keep on working on these weaknesses until you minimise or even eradicate them.